Well, it’s not a true AK-47. A true AK-47 is a selective fire assault rifle. My rifle is an SAR-1, basically an AK-47 pattern built in Romania which can only fire semi-automatic, not full auto like a machine gun. I’m sure that the fun-loving folks at VPC would call it an “assault weapon” but there is no such thing as an “assault weapon” unless, of course, you mean any object that could be used to assault another human being, so anything could be called an “assault weapon.” The SAR-1 is a military rifle design with a pistol grip and it will accept 10, 20, 30, and 40 round magazines.
Critique of the SAR-1
The SAR-1 is a Romanian offering, produced by ROMAK S.A. and then shipped to Century Arms to have the obligatory American parts installed so it won’t be an “imported assault rifle.” In the case of the SAR-1, those parts are the trigger group, the bolt carrier and the pistol grip.
As one owner said, “The SAR won’t win any beauty contests.” These guns tend to be assembled solidly, but cosmetics are a low priority. Many new owners of SAR’s immediately strip the varnish from the wood and do finish work like painting them with MetalKote. I didn’t feel it necessary to do those things although I might on another rifle. What I did was to buff the varnish on the furniture with a fine steel wool pad to smooth out the teeth and roughness of the wood finish. I then used Kleen-Bore Black Magic blue to touch up the parkerized metal of the receiver. I also did a bit of stoning on metal edges like the charging handle and trigger guard to smooth out little sharps. I did similar smoothing on the magazines.
One thing you will notice about these rifles is things are not always perfectly straight. On mine, the front sight post is canted ever so slightly to the left. The windage adjustment compensates for this fine, so the rifle shoots beautifully to point of aim. The furniture on my gas tube is canted slightly to the left – the gas tub itself is on straight (something a new buyer should check when purchasing one of these) – but the furniture is ever so slightly canted to the left. (Hmmm… leftward bias on a Soviet battle rifle – who would have thunk it?) For the most part, these are cosmetic issues and in no way do they affect the function of the rifle, although a seriously crooked gas tube could cause problems.
AK pattern rifles do not have a “slide stop” so the bolt does not lock open after the last round. This bugs me because it’s the only autoloader I have that has this behavior. Since the AK was essentially designed as a sub machine gun, I guess the thinking was that when it quits going “bang” it’s time to reload. Simplicity and economy of design is great, but I still wish the bolt would lock back when it’s empty.
After the first time I shot the SAR-1, I took it to a gunsmith to have him relieve the disconnector to reduce trigger slap and I also asked him to polish the sear surfaces to smooth the trigger. It took him three weeks to do the job, but he did nice work. I can’t tell that the disconnector relief did a whole lot, but my finger wasn’t hurting after 50 rounds the way it did the first time I shot it prior to the gunsmith work. The sear polish helped more. At 30 yards I was able to shoot a three inch group offhand easily with a number of the shots forming a ragged hole at the point of aim. This was with the Russian Wolf 122g FMJ ammo.
The Kalashnikov is not a sniper rifle. I see guys bragging about getting 1″ groups at 100 yards. Unless they are using scopes and sand bags, I kind of doubt it. Offhand with iron sights at 50 yards, I can hold them in a 3″ group. If you’re the kind who gets a charge out of shooting quarters at 300 meters, this is not the rifle for you.
The Gestalt of the Kalashnikov
The AK-47 is the ultimate “ugly gun.” The very sight of it evokes memories of Viet Cong soldiers, terrorists and revolutionaries. Wherever the shit has hit the fan, the AK-47 has been there. It’s cheap to build, effective and reliable. You can buy two AK-style rifles for the price of one AR-15, and many consider the AK to be more reliable and effective than the AR-15. Those sorts of comparisons are the subject of endless debate. My own opinion is that the AR-15 is better at longer range and against body armor whereas the AK is more reliable and launches a cartridge which is more effective inside of 200 yards.
The AK-47 is one of the world’s legendary battle rifles. There have been more AK-47’s produced than any other single firearm design. Its design was hammered out in the desperate forge of World War II. It was adopted by the Soviet Army in 1947 but didn’t actually go into service until 1949.
What are the lessons of war reflected in the Kalashnikov rifle? It is easy, fast, and inexpensive to produce. It doesn’t require a Swiss watchmaker to assemble it. Its assembly requires no hand fitting so the parts are interchangeable for easy repair in the field, although such repair is seldom needed.
The AK-47 is reliable. It is not sensitive to dirt and neglect. The safety and bolt close to prevent dirt and debris from entering the mechanism of the rifle. Even with significant amounts of crud and powder residue built up in the receiver, the gun will continue to fire flawlessly. Kalashnikov rifles chambered in the original 1943 cartridge, the 7.62mm x 39mm, run right new out of the box and just keep on running. Mine has never choked on ammo or failed to ignite a round.
The rifle is designed for fast, close quarter combat. It is short and is easy to handle and turn quickly. It has a pistol grip which makes firing from the hip easier, and it can be fired one-handed if you have the strength in your arms. The gas piston operation greatly softens the recoil, making the rifle easier to control for fast strings or full auto fire.
A common comparison is made between the 7.62mm x 39mm and the Winchester 30-30 cartridges, so let’s look at that.
170g Federal 30-30 vs. Type 1943 122g 7.62mm x 39mm FMJ:
Slightly higher muzzle velocity for the 7.62, 2350 fps vs. 2200 fps of the 30-30.
Trajectory at 200 yards: 5.12 inches for the 7.62 vs. 8.3 inches for the 30-30.
Slightly better energy delivery for the 30-30, 990 fp vs. 846 fp for the 7.62 at 200 yards (but this is with a bullet that is 40% larger).
In other words, the cartridges are pretty doggoned close. The 7.62 has better range and the 30-30 hits a little harder. There is, of course, no armor-piercing incendiary available for the 30-30.
From the tactical point of view, the AK has 20, 30 and 40 round magazines, does not require cocking between shots, reloads faster, and has better penetration of body armor less than Class III. Since it is a gas operated autoloader, its recoil is significantly less than the lever gun, making follow-up shots quicker. If you fire a 30-30 with it’s steel butt plate against your shoulder without some sort of padding, it will hurt you (unless you have a lot of muscle or fat mass on your shoulder that I don’t have). With the AK, you’d have to fire 100 rounds or more before you’d start to get tender. The AK is faster, more fun and less punishing. If it was a matter of 1 shot inside of a 150 yards, I’d take the 30-30. It hits harder and is more accurate. I am considerably more accurate with a Winchester Model 94 than I am with a Kalashnikov. If I had to engage multiple targets within 200 yards, I would prefer the AK.
But most important: Box of 20 30-30 shells – $10; box of 20 7.62 x 39 – $1.80.
Also, there is nothing as sublimely politically incorrect as teaching your 15-year-old the manual of arms on your gun show AK-47.
Some history on the SAR-1 and the AK-47
“Mikhail Timofeevich Kalashnikov was born in 1919 to a peasant family in the village of Kurya, Altay region (southwest Siberia). He entered a primary school in 1926, but was forced to leave his village when pursued by authorities for possessing a revolver he had picked up from a civil war battlefield.
Young Mikhail went to Alma-Ata, where he later found employment as a technical secretary in one of the departments of the Turkestan-Siberian Railroad. Kalashnikov was drafted into the Red Army in 1938, and then sent to a school for tank driver- mechanics. Here he distinguished himself in the design of an instrument for monitoring tank engine hours, and in 1939 went to Leningrad to participate in the production of the device. When the Great Patriotic War began in June 1941, Senior Sergeant Kalashnikov found himself commanding a tank at the front. Seriously wounded in combat around Bryansk in October 1941, Kalashnikov was evacuated to the deep rear for recovery. While on a six-month convalescent leave, he returned to Alma-Ata, where he found a position in a weapon production facility run by the Moscow Aviation Institute. Here he began a career in small arms design and production that would last more than a half century.
In 1946, while working at the Kovrov Weapons Plant (about 250 kilometers east of Moscow), Kalashnikov began work on the weapon that would carry his name around the world – the AK-47. This 7.62 x 39mm assault rifle was accepted as the standard rifle for the Soviet Army in 1949, and retained that status until it was succeeded by the modernized Kalashnikov assault rifle (AKM) in 1959.
Kalashnikov and his design team would eventually design and produce an entire family of automatic weapons based on the AK-47 assault rifle design: the AKM and AKMS assault rifle, the RPK and RPKS machine gun, the PK and PKS machine gun, the PKT tank machine gun, and the PKB machine gun for the armored transporter.
The AKM bears a strong mechanical and cosmetic resemblance to its forebear, the AK-47. Design differences include a retarder in the trigger mechanism that moderates the weapon’s rate of fire; improvements to the bolt-locking system that contribute to better horizontal stability and thus accuracy; a 1000-meter rear sight leaf instead of the 800-ineter leaf on the AK-47; stamped receiver, receiver cover, and other parts; plastic magazines and pistol grip; muzzle compensator; and a bayonet-knife in place of a plain bayonet. Cosmetic differences include a slightly larger fore end, laminated wood stock and fore end, and parkerized bolt and bolt carrier on the AKM. A loaded AKM is approximately 1.5 lb. lighter than a loaded AK-47.
Variants on the AKM design have been produced in East Germany, Poland, Hungary, Romania, and North Korea. Total world-wide production of the AK-47 and AKM and their foreign variants is estimated at between 30 and 50 million, making the Kalashnikov assault rifle the most widely produced rifle in the world.
Kalashnikov has received numerous prestigious awards for his life-long labor in the design bureaus and factories of the Soviet defense establishment: Hero of Socialist Labor (two awards), the Lenin and State prizes, three Orders of Lenin, the Order of the October Revolution, Order of Labor Red Banner, Order of Friendship of Peoples, Order of the Red Star, and other lesser medals. He has an earned doctorate in technical sciences, and on the occasion of his 75th birthday in 1994 was promoted to major general (reserve).”
Source: The Official Soviet AKM Manual translated by Maj. James F. Gebhardt, U.S. Army
“The SAR-1’s arrived in the US the first part of 1999, around February, if I am not mistaken. Around the mid part of 1999, the SAR-2 (AK chambered for 5.45mm x 39) arrived, and the latter part of 1999, the SAR-3 (AK chambered for .223 Remington) made it’s debut. The 1999 SAR’s had some minor, easily corrected problems. Soft hammers, canted sight towers and gas blocks, all of which Century would gladly repair for free, all you need do is call and get a return authorization. The SAR-3’s also had problems with out-of-spec hammers, these too were corrected in the 2000 series and any 1999 version with an off-hammer they will also replace for free. I consider 1999 to be the golden age for AK owners. This was the year the US factories started cranking out very high quality AK’s and good reliable basic AK’s. Ammo was cheap. Magazines were plentiful and relatively inexpensive and super quality. 2000 was likewise a very good year for us. Still, it’s only a matter of time before the companies bring over Bulgarian and Romanian technicians to set up barrel and receiver production lines here. I believe it will be a year or so before the dawn of the silver age for AK enthusiasts.”
“It’s a common (and incorrect) story that the AK was “based on a German assault rifle in 8mm Kurtz”. Strip the two of them and you can see there is almost no similarity. Mikal T. Kalashnikov actually used US arms features in his design: he took the bolt from the M1 Carbine (yes, I know the Carbine bolt is the same as the Garand in functioning – but it was the Carbine that inspired him), the trigger from the Garand, even the safety from a Remington semi-auto hunting rifle. He based the concept on the STG-44 and it’s predecessors perhaps, but the idea of the “assault rifle” or “machine carbine” was around before. In my opinion, the AK-47 and AKM were better weapons than the STG-44. Factoid: the detailed shape of the MP-43 and MP-44 were created by a typewriter company that was chosen to make the stampings.
Incidentally, the M43 cartridge (7.62mm x 39mm) was a German design, stolen before 1938 (I believe). And even stranger, it was based on the Italian 6.5mm cartridge. The design was modified further (after the Soviet spies stole the earlier design), but lost out to the round that became the 7.92 Kurtz. The Germans managed to get equal velocity for a very similar bullet with a cartridge 1/4″ shorter.” – Packrat
The official Soviet Army AKM manual defines the intent and purpose of the rifle succinctly: “The 7.62 modernized Kalashnikov rifle is an individual weapon intended for the destruction of enemy personnel.” No mamby-pamby equivocation there. The Kalashnikov rifle is a fighting gun. It wasn’t built for duck hunting. There are a lot of folks including one former president who question why a civilian “needs” to own a battle rifle of any sort. That same previously mentioned president, who thankfully no longer occupies that office, even went so far as to issue an executive order banning the importation of foreign-built “assault rifles” (really any “ugly gun” since there are actually very few true assault rifles imported into the US and the so-called “assault rifle” ban has been extended to include semi-automatic rifles which aren’t “assault rifles” at all because they are not selective fire or full auto), as if reducing the supply of Kalashnikovs and FAL’s would reduce crime or make America a safer place to be by forcing domestic terrorists and criminals to buy American made AR-15s (I’m sorry, but I just don’t get the logic here). Like the rest of that particular president’s diversionary maneuvers, his “assault weapon ban” had absolutely effect on crime or personal safety.
But, do I “need” to own a gun like this? I really hope not. That’s not the issue. It’s my right to own a gun like this plain and simple. I own it because I want to. It’s fascinating and it’s fun to shoot. That’s the only justification I need. Could I imagine a scenario in which I would “need” this rifle for something other than recreation? Yes. Widespread civil disorder brought about by natural disaster or coordinated terrorist strikes on the homeland could leave one feeling very glad to have the Kalashnikov by your side. Short of a cataclysm such as this, I doubt that I’ll ever need this rifle for its intended purpose. But, such a crisis is far from impossible and the AK-47 is a great WTSHTF (“when the shit hits the fan”) gun. It can hunt, fight, and provide an intimidating defense. Ammo is cheap and fairly light. It’s short and compact for close quarters. All of those pistol issues of stopping power and mag capacity sort of fade away with the AK. It can endure extended periods of operation under very adverse conditions. Admittedly, I’m a big bullet kind of guy, but I have more confidence in the 7.62mm than I do in the .223.
The last time I read the Second Amendment it didn’t say anything about actions, calibers or cosmetics. It didn’t say I had to justify my ownership of a rifle with some kind of “need.” It said “shall not be infringed.”
Took the AK to our IDPA match. Sometimes, after the official match is over, we’ll experiment around with unconventional guns that don’t fit into the IDPA classifications. Sometimes it’s mouse guns or shotguns. On this day it was military rifles. We had a Mauser K-98, an M1A and the AK-47. We shot a couple of the IDPA stages with the little ugly rifle. One stage represented fighting a gang around the corners of a building and rescuing hostages. Everyone who used the gun on this stage particularly noticed the speed of handling and the ease with which accurate shots were placed.
It’s a butt-kicking little rifle. I like the way it feels and sounds a whole lot more than an AR-15. I like the wood and the heft of it. Yesterday, I fired 200 rounds at a cost of $18. Recently I bought a pack of four 30-round mags, mag pouch and field cleaning kit for $35. Price for the basic rifle was $327 – I could buy three of them for the price of one new Colt AR-15. The more I work with this rifle and learn about it, the more I like it. You can’t beat it for economy and the fun factor is terrific.
Some good AK-47 Links
AK-Net – Discussion Forum
Kalashnikov Home Page – AK Site. Kalashnikov Arms Catalog. From AK-47 to AK-100
Red Star Arms – Interesting Add-On and Replacement parts for AK’s and other guns.
Valery Shilin’s Gun Club – Excellent info on AK’s and Kalashnikov family of rifles
Comments, suggestions, contributions? Let me know